This is the start of a new series at Maritime Love, called A Little Good News. In the series, I’ll tell stories about positive things happening around the region. Because, frankly, we could all use a little more good news. My first A Little Good News story is on a subject very close to my heart: rural schools.
In June of 2015, the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board voted to uphold the decision to close Wentworth Consolidated Elementary, along with Maitland District Elementary and River John Consolidated, after rejecting their hub school proposals. The communities were obviously devastated by the closures. They fought, and continue to fight to keep their schools a part of their communities.
I grew up in the next village over from Wentworth and while I did not attend this school, I’ve visited many times and I know the toll that a school closure has both on the students and the community. It can be very hard on kids to adjust to a new, often much larger school many kilometers away; their grades often suffer because of it. On the community the effect can be even more drastic. When a school closes, a community’s centre of gravity is lost, leaving it’s members unsteady and unsure of where the next step lies. Many families will move, simply to be closer to school and after school activities. The remaining community struggles to maintain solidarity, without the school as a rallying point.
The people of Wentworth refused to give up and because of the hard work of some very committed members of the community, they have just announced that in September of 2017, they will be reopening the school as a “P-3, independent, not-for-profit, community governed and community maintained facility“. And starting May 1, 2016, they will also offer “commercial space available for rent to encourage small business ventures and give owners affordable space to grow“.
To get the full scoop on the project I called on an old friend, Nathan Patriquin, who is the Vice President of the Wentworth Learning Centre Cooperative Ltd, the group that is overseeing the project and will be responsible for the Centre’s operation. The Centre will not be affiliated with any local school board, instead relying on an ongoing fundraising campaign to raise the funds necessary for it’s operation. He tells me that they are also accepting proposals from certified daycare providers and are marketing the almost 1500 sq ft of remaining available space as a “business incubator to encourage new entrepreneurs to pursue their ideas“. When asked how the community has received the project, he tells me that while cautiously optimistic at first, the community is encouraged by the progress that has been made as the project gains momentum.
I congratulate the people of Wentworth on their commitment to providing local education for their children and for fighting so hard for their community. It is exactly this kind of innovative thinking that will keep our rural Maritime communities alive and help them prosper into the future.
If you would like to learn more about the learning centre or are interested in renting space, please visit their Facebook page Wentworth Learning Centre.